USF1?s Peter Windsor and the strange story of the Brabham F1 team

Peter Windsor helped Brabham return to F1 in 1989

Peter Windsor helped Brabham return to F1 in 1989

USF1 is expected to announce its plans to enter F1 in 2010 later today.

The plan is being headed by two men, Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor. Windsor has worn many hats in an F1 career spanning more than two decades, but mystery surrounds his last involvement with Brabham.

His role in taking over the team after Bernie Ecclestone sold it reportedly ended with Windsor being kidnapped and beaten. What happened?

After his Brabham team won world championships in 1981 and 1983 Ecclestone became increasingly absorbed by the business of running F1. He let the team’s championship entry lapse for 1988 and only announced at the first race of the season that it would not be competing that year.

Windsor began making arrangements to take over the team. I’ve had difficulty finding out much about what happened next beyond what I could find in Autosport and Terry Lovell’s biography of Ecclestone – it isn’t even mentioned in Windsor’s Wikipedia entry. So if you can add any facts to the story please post them in the comments.

Windsor arranged a takeover of the team financed by two Swiss men – Walter Brun and Joachim L???thi. But at the end of 1988 Brun sold his portion of the company to Luthi, and Windsor, despite his 20% stake in the company, was squeezed out.

Windsor successfully appealed to the high court to freeze his stake in Brabham and obtained an injunction against L???thi. But L???thi was already busy transferring ownership of the company abroad, and loaning money to it from another of his companies that was on the verge of bankruptcy. Halfway through 1989 he was arrested and eventually convicted for embezzling $133m.

Windsor’s legal action dragged on and in 1991 he was finally awarded ??450,000 compensation. But according to Lovell’s book:

Six months earlier he had been bundled into a van by two men as he left the Williams team headquarters in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Employees who went to his aid were threatened by what appeared to be a gun. Handcuffed and blindfolded, he was driven to the countryside, beaten up and later dumped by the roadside. He was taken to hospital for treatment to cuts and bruising.

After such an ill-fated encounter with Formula 1 team ownership it’s astounding that Windsor would ever want to go near the sport again. Let alone take up the huge challenge of bringing an American team to a championship with no North American races while there’s a recession on.

Hopefully Windsor?s ambitious new project will enjoy better fortune. Formula 1 badly needs the USF1 dream to come true.

Read more: Peter Windsor vs Darrell Waltrip on F1

Image (C) Milan Vasko / Gurneyflap

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25 comments on USF1?s Peter Windsor and the strange story of the Brabham F1 team

  1. I remember reading (and I think I should say that this is a vague recollection of a muddled mind) an article for a Formula One website (perhaps an apparent leading independent site, and perhaps written by someone accused of being a Doctor – I can’t be sure) that talked about an un-named, but well known, person in F1 circles that was alledgedly kidnapped, taken to a remote field and bashed to the point where that person still walks with a limp. The article in question may or may not be easy to find, and it may or may not provide more insight into the subject of this post. (p.s. I really can’t remember the name of the article by Lawrence, but this is how Bernie does it.)

    I personally would love to see Peter Windsor involved more directly in F1. His status on the American feed might help to boost interest in that country for one, and it would almost certainly guarantee the return of F1 in North America. The question remains, though. Who’s going to ask those tough questions at post-race press conferences?

  2. wow, what a strange and curious story…

  3. business in the good old days

  4. Good honest business.

    Would be good if it happened to Lewis Hamilton.

    • Paul Sainsbury said on 24th February 2009, 22:37

      That is a particularly pathetic remark, even from a Hamilton hater.

    • I stand by it. It would wipe the smug grin from his stupefyingly irritating cherubic face.

    • It is still mean-spirited and unethical to wish that sort of ill on anyone.

    • Is it possible that I was perhaps joking? My goodness you people seem rather tetchy.

      I do dislike Hamilton though it has to be said. And would find it funny if he was taught a lesson or two, preferably involving physical violence.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th February 2009, 11:27

      So you’ve taken a dislike to Hamilton for some reason (care to say why?) and you think that alone justifies having him beaten up?

      I can understand why people think that’s in poor taste.

      What exactly has Hamilton done to you that’s so bad he deserves to be beaten up for it?

    • I dont like Hamilton either… being a great driver I’m fine with, what puts him over the line is that he can back that up by pulling the main chick from Pussycat Dolls. I am insanely jealous

  5. miraclees said on 24th February 2009, 13:17

    Toby, this article was either on grandprix.com or pitpass.com. I remember the story exactly as you do. Wondered myself who that was.

  6. mJohnHurt said on 24th February 2009, 13:17

    I’m wondering how much Windsor will really be involved. The SpeedTV article announcing today’s press conference listed Windsor as a consultant. I wonder if he’s tangential to the operation and just being used because he’s a known quantity to USA F1 fans with his presence in the SpeedTV lineup

  7. ANyone with a stream link? I’m at work so….

  8. Only in England would you read “and threatened by WHAT APPEARED TO BE a gun”.

    Goodness gracious! An actual sighting of a (possible) gun? In the genteel environs of olde-Oxfordshire? What is the world coming to?

  9. Obster said on 25th February 2009, 21:45

    Now THAT is a truly scary story!
    Right in front of the Williams HQ!

  10. Chris Reynolds said on 26th February 2009, 4:08

    My god man! What poor dark age taste “MF”. I guess there has to be too parts- PROBLEM and the solution. Which one do you represent “MF”?

    Peter has his heart in the right place and that is all that matters- you can break the body but not the spirit it seems. US F1 WOW- I delightfully welcome the prestigious chance to have my country represented in any F1 race. Thank you to anyone who helps facilitate this.

  11. Another asset that can be very valuable are either
    Rick Wedlinger (Former head of the A1GP Team USA)
    and Jerry Forsythe who are yet to have an Indy Car
    team.

  12. theRoswellite said on 26th February 2009, 6:38

    OK, Ok, ok………..my wife tries to get into F1, successfully the last few years, and she is competent enough in the general flow of things to have regularly taken my money on our little (I wish)Sunday bets; and she thinks Peter Windsor is the soul of the Speed Channel production, which includes all the drivers. She is going to be badly mashed to hear he isn’t roaming up and down the starting grid.

    Also, I really enjoy the dearth of personality gobsmacking that accompanies the posts on this site….MF, if you are only joking you will forgive our not picking up the wryness of your smile, it dose not translate well in print.

  13. I would just like Lewis to drive in my NASCAR team that’s all and feel that kidnapping is the only likely way of getting him to do this..

    I am needless to say, suitably chastened.

  14. giacomo said on 11th December 2009, 19:24

    I remember that story.

    Windsor appeared at the 1991 Phoenix Grand Prix, immediately after the kidnapping and beating up took place.

    There is a photo of Windsor with two ‘black’ eyes printed in German ‘rallye racing 4-91′. Also a rib was broken.

    Interesting detail: Windsor did NOT report the incident to the police.

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